The first weekend of Coachella is behind us, and with it, thousands of crocheted halter tops and tattered denim shorts are being laundered and tucked away for next year. Festival fashion is, as Jezebel noted way back in 2015, a weird, glitter-infused interpretation of Woodstock’s peasant dresses, bell bottoms, and macarame, optimized for the prying lenses of street style photogs and Instagram. It is comfortable enough, fashionable, colorful, relatively naked, or, in the case of Rihanna, ripped off the Gucci runway and worn as is.
What it is not, however, and traditonally never has been, is sporty or practical. At the Cut, Emilia Petrarca questions this history, asking, “With the rise in popularity of streetwear and athleisure, why are we still dressing like fast-fashion hippies?” Petrarca suggests “Calabasas casual”as an alternative to short shorts and macrame—sweats and sneakers, a la Yeezy Seasons 1-5, just in case society as a whole has been unable to think of anything else to wear to an outdoor even that takes place in a desert which is hot like fire during the day and colder in the evening.
While the impulse to recommend sneakers and sweats for a festival setting is correct, the idea that streetwear is suitable in the environs of Coachella is in direct opposition to the true concerns of the hypebeast: there’s no way anyone would ruin their Yeezy 500s in Blush by subjecting that shit to the dust, dirt, and PortaPotty floors of Indio. This 2013 piece from Complex about the telltale signs of a hypebeast is five years old, but the basic tenets remain the same: hypebeasts cop shit because of the hype. Wearing a sweatshirt you bought after sleeping on a sidewalk overnight and then only Febreze instead of washing to retain color integrity is not something any hypebeast worth their ultra-rare Ultraboosts would do; these are volatile settings where the garments run a high risk of ruin by the elements or a rogue splash of hallucinogen-and-dehydration-induced vomit. Hypebeast culture started because people were fussed that their coke-white Jordans were getting scuffed in everyday life. Athleisure and its high-fashion equivalents are desert practical, sure, but no self-respecting streetwear connoisseur would take a $900 Vetements hoodie to the swarming masses of Coachella—because doing so would sully the garments!!
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But that also gets to the heart of the matter: the hypebeast isn’t Coachella’s target audience. If presented with the option of paying $400 for a non-VIP ticket to a music festival, or buying a pair of the Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max 97s released on Air Max day this year, a true ‘beast will choose the sneaker, every time. Sure, hypothetically one could reasonably wear those very same sneakers to a festival —comfort, my friends!—but one would not, given their rarity! Practicality and fashion do not often work in concert with one another. Wear your shitty shoes and your crappiest short-shorts to the outdoor music experience, because when you’re not standing listlessly in front of a stage waiting for the edible to hit, you’ll be sitting on whatever patch of ground is available to you—grass, dirt, sand, rubble—until the music starts.
Additionally, as previously mentioned, a desert is hot. No one’s trying to flex in sweatpants when it’s 90 degrees outside and there’s no shade. If practicality and comfort is a true concern, go full survivalist and rock some technical outerwear—these REI convertible zip-off pants (shants?), but make it fashion. Throw on that Palace x Adidas belt bag you’ve been keeping in a vitrine at home.
It’s tempting to want to stunt like the celebrities at Coachella, who use this time to indulge in their most over the top ensembles. But they can do so partly because stepping out in a dust storm wearing a look that’s phresh out the runway is a better return on investment for them than it is for the average person. It’s not that Rihanna isn’t terrifically concerned with ruining this Y/Project look; it’s more that for her, it doesn’t really matter. She was photographed wearing it; the designer got publicity; Rihanna continued to innovate. Her presence at Coachella is implicitly a well-executed stunt. After she takes in Miguel’s set, she can hop in a waiting golf cart and zoom back to her air-conditioned trailer. She doesn’t have to sweat, and if the clothes get dirty along the way—an errant smear of BodyLava on the hem—she can get a new look sent to her faster than it will take the average Coachella-goer to find a cold bottle of water.
Your everyday hypebeast who, as Petrarca writes, may be a “slave to the ‘gram,” is unable to partake in these luxuries. No true street style warrior is gonna hit up this dirt infestation in their Gosha x Adidas tracksuit.